TRENDING NOW: Scientist Lends Expertise to Manage Triathlon’s Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria) Problem

Cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, are a well-known problem on Alberta’s lakes. With his Ph.D. dissertation on Toxicity of Blue-Green Algae, as well as many years of experience, Dr. Ron Zurawell is the provincial expert on the topic of cyanobacteria. “I fell into it,” he explains, “I always wanted to work on lakes.”

Ron is playing a key role in dealing with the cyanobacteria issue at Hawrelak Park Lake. Cyanobacteria poses risks to human health in large quantities and when Alberta Health Services (AHS) declared a blue-green algae health risk advisory for the lake in the weeks leading up to the ITU World Triathlon Edmonton, where the swimming portion of the event is scheduled to be held, the triathlon’s success and the safety of its participants was at risk.

Ron sits on the Science Advisory Committee of the Alberta Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program for Public Health (ACMPPH) – a group that includes members from Alberta Health, Environment and Parks, AHS and the University of Alberta. The group’s main objective is to provide recommendations on cyanobacteria monitoring and the public health advisory process.

During the effort to get the lake clean and ready for the triathlon, Ron has been consulted for his expertise in the effects and detection of cyanobacteria toxins as well as his understanding of lake systems. “We have been conducting daily monitoring, taking samples from around the lake for the presence toxins and a species count.”

The chlorine proved an effect method of killing of the cyanobacteria, with cell numbers dropping from over one cells per milliliter to 1,000 – well below the guidelines. “Toxicology tests have been either negative or extremely low,” Ron assures.

With the lake water now clear and safe to swim in, the next tasks will be prevention. “We are deciding what can be done next year to avoid this situation again,” says Ron, “We will be focusing on managing the growth [of cyanobacteria] as well as suitable treatment options.”

The ITU World Triathlon Edmonton takes place Sept. 5 and 6 at Hawrelak Park. For more information go to